The Humble CV: Still The Most Important Document For Your Career Success
August 24, 2016
Since the advent of LinkedIn, job platforms and video resumes, traditional CVs have been under pressure to prove their relevance, with some people insisting that they’re out of date.
Yet the humble CV is still by far the most important document for your career success, and its versatility and immediate impact ensures that it will remain so well into the future.
In a skills-heavy field like life sciences, the CV is the perfect way to get your degrees, achievements, and competencies down on paper in a logical and clear fashion- and in a style that your employers will immediately recognise as professional.
The Benefits of a CV
CVs are still overwhelmingly the way employers make their first ‘judgement’ about whether a potential new recruit is a fit or a match for their organisation: It’s that simple.
LinkedIn may be a great way of finding passive candidates, but when it comes to job application time, employers still insist on seeing a CV.
Why? Well it is much easier for hiring managers to compare ‘like with like’ with traditional CVs. Imagine watching one candidate’s video presentation, then trawling through a few online applications, then rifling through a stack of paper CVs— how do you compare candidates fairly when they present information in such different formats?
Employers like being able to have traditional CVs before them with the information set out in a clear format so they can compare each candidate fairly and logically.
If viewing the CVs on screen, they can also run simple searches to quickly identify key competencies, or print CVs out on paper and take notes while talking to candidates.
Another powerful advantage of the CV from the candidate perspective is that you can easily tailor your CV to each vacancy—unlike LinkedIn or job posting sites where you have one designated CV on file for employers to view.
So the humble CV is still hugely important, and is by far the most widely used tool for connecting employer with employee. However, despite the CV being around for over 500 years since Da Vinci applied for a job with the Duke of Milan, candidates are still making significant errors on CVs which can completely derail their chance of making it to the interview stage.
Common mistakes seen on CVs
Spelling and grammar errors. This may appear blindingly obvious, but hiring managers frequently ‘delete’ those otherwise good candidates who put themselves out of the running through careless spelling and grammar.
While we know these things aren’t necessarily indicative of intelligence (and that there are plenty of very clever life science professionals who aren’t great spellers) the lack of attention to detail shown by such simple errors does put employers off. After all, if you can’t be bothered to run spell-check or get your CV proofread, what does that say about your attention to detail in the job, or even worse- your enthusiasm in the first place for getting the role?
Formatting problems. Again, this is not rocket science (but candidates really present themselves poorly when silly details like misaligned borders or missing bullet points crop up in professional CVs.
Put your CV in a basic format like Word or preferably PDF, then email it to yourself and open on several different browsers so you know that it presents well on screen. Print it out as well to see what it will look like, and steer clear of fancy colours, fonts and designs.
Failing to list experience chronologically. Many candidates confuse the hiring manager by cherry- picking their most relevant experience and putting the most interesting roles at the top of their experience, even if it is not their most recent experience. Keep things logical and easy to follow by always sticking to the ‘most recent job first then work backwards’ approach.
Not backing up claims with proof. Operating in a scientific field, life sciences companies will quite understandably require you to back up your claims of excellence with proof. List results, papers you’ve published, research you’ve contributed to, and projects that you’ve been a part of. If you say you’re a great manager, it’s up to you to back this up with evidence of successful projects and team longevity.
Not convincingly explaining gaps or lack of longevity in work history. Many employers will look suspiciously on a CV that reads like War and Peace, with lots of switching employers or mysterious gaps. It’s definitely fine to take on temporary roles to build experience, move jobs to advance your career, or go travelling to broaden your horizons, but be sure to make it clear in your CV why these gaps appear so the hiring manager doesn’t consider you a flight risk.
Not taking care of the details. There is little more frustrating than reading the CV of a good candidate, only to find that the links they’ve provided lead to 404 errors, or the phone numbers/email addresses provided for referees don’t exist. This is a basic and entirely avoidable CV error that will almost certainly land your CV in the waste paper bin.
A traditional CV is the most accepted way to apply for a role in the life sciences, as it is the ideal format for an industry where the skills and competencies are normally highly technical.